dsc_3051The Path to Peace starts in youth. We can help encourage/ground/nurture the path to peace in our communities by beginning early with our children and youth. Many of us were not brought up with a clear understanding of boundaries. Often, children’s boundaries are routinely violated either meanly by abusers or subtly by adults who don’t give children the dignity of having personal space. I’m not saying children should have their way and not follow rules. I’m saying that treating them with dignity and speaking kindly even when instructing them is powerfully affirming to children. It trains them in how to treat others with respect and be sensitive to other people’s boundaries. We all “lose it” sometimes and make mistakes. A heartfelt apology goes a long way with children.

Much cruelty happens between children in play and at school. Teachers alone cannot overcome a culture of insensitivity. It begins at home. Hold school meetings to reach agreement across the parent community about this, so that parents and teachers are an effective team. Parents must show up to this job. Children must be kindly and firmly corrected when they treat each other or adults with unkindness or disrespect. This must start at a very young age to be effective. Bullying must be stopped before it becomes ingrained in the person. Big consequences may be needed to really get young people’s attention on this. The authority of wise adults over child culture cannot be abdicated.

The statistics on violence against girls and young women are shocking. As many as one third of girls and women have been assaulted. This is a direct outgrowth of a youth culture where disrespect and unkindness are tolerated. The bottom line is that everyone needs to feel safe and that their boundaries are respected. A look at the misogynistic threads now present in our country shows us how much work we have to do. This requires taking stands—forceful, firm, vigilant boundary keeping, without hostility and vengeance.

Look at the human desecration of the earth and our environment. A population of humans that is not deeply sensitized to boundary keeping will tend to take what we want from the earth without gratitude, without pause or reflection and without remorse. We will lose this earth as a home if we do not quickly learn good stewardship. There is a direct connection here with how we train children in respect, kindness and boundary keeping and the mistreatment of the earth.

So as we work with children on boundary-keeping and treating people with respect and kindness, we can make good use of the “Gratitude Way”—five pieces of praise, appreciation, thanks, affirmation and blessing for every one of constructive feedback. All of our firmness in boundary training needs to occur within a rich environment of affirmation. That helps us all stay “emotionally hydrated” while we do the hard work of boundary keeping. When I start to feel impatient I can focus my inner awareness on filling myself with good things, to stay “emotionally hydrated”. When I feel upset I can make a choice to pray, to meditate, to shift focus to a good memory to let the wave of feelings pass and to ask, “what needs healing here”. A well-hydrated boundary keeper is a more effective boundary keeper and advocate.

GRATITUDE WAY EXERCISE: Sit with family or friends who are willing to try it. You go first. Speak to each one and tell them 5 things you appreciate about them. Be specific, rather than just saying they are nice. Tell them your thanks, appreciations, what you’re grateful for about them. Then let them tell you how that feels to hear those statements. Then go on to the next person all around the group. Notice what you feel in your body each time. It may feel awkward at first but do it anyway. It is powerful.

© Jerry Allen 2016

Jerry Allen, DivinerAbout the author – Jerry Allen

I hold a masters in public health education from UC Berkeley and a masters in counseling psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies. I’ve been a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist since 1991, and am certified in Somatic Experiencing. I began my medicine man training in my first vision quest in 1973. I was initiated as a medicine man under the training and supervision of Theresa Dintino. I studied Aikido for 30 years and received 3 black belts. I live and practice in Oregon and Sebastopol, and enjoy playing music, tending our apple orchard, and spending time with my two wonderful children.